Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Local and national Catholic Charities agencies are working to assess needs and provide aid after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast this week, leading to what will likely be billions of dollars in damage and several confirmed deaths.
In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice, said that it was still too early to assess the extent of the hurricane’s damage but that “the diocese was hit hard and directly.”
“It’s safe to say that the recovery effort will be extensive,” Gloria said.
CEO of @CC_DOV, Eddie Gloria, joins to share how he is doing and how everyone in the Diocese of Venice is doing with Hurricane Ian. Gloria tells us how the churches and church properties are doing and whether there is much damage. pic.twitter.com/g35tf8rAnW
— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) September 30, 2022
Catholic Charities has deployed teams on the ground to assess the damage and where their efforts are most needed. Most of the diocese, which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, is still without power — across the state, some 1.9 million customers remain without power.
The Diocese of Venice’s pastoral center was closed Friday and is expected to reopen Oct. 3. Bishop Frank Dewane posted a statement on the diocesan Facebook page Sept. 30.
“Thank you for your continued prayers for the Diocese of Venice and all those affected by Hurricane Ian. Damage is still being assessed, but it is clear that the devastation in the diocese is widespread,” Dewane wrote.
“There are several crews already at work throughout the diocese, and Catholic Charities is putting their local team into action. We are grateful for all those who have helped, and continue to help, during this difficult time.”
Gloria, the Catholic Charities CEO, said that communication was still a big challenge due to cell phone towers being downed in the storm. Various parts of the diocese, such as DeSoto County, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Naples, have been completely cut off due to roads and bridges being submerged under water.
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has launched a dedicated disaster donation page with 100 percent of the funds raised going to support people impacted by Hurricane Ian and served by their local Catholic Charities agencies. Funds raised through CCUSA will be used for basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. The Florida Catholic Conference urged donations to CCUSA in a Friday tweet.
Gloria said Catholic Charities set up several relief sites before the storm, which they plan to activate soon based on their assessments of the sites. They plan to continue to work together with the diocese and parishes to reach people in need of basic necessities like emergency housing, food, and water.
“We’re walking through this cautiously and carefully … wherever we allocate our resources, that is where we are having the greatest impact,” Gloria said.
He also urged prayers to help them through the process.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, pummeling Florida’s Gulf Coast with storm surges and heavy wind. Central Florida received 17 inches of rain as Ian passed overhead. Hurricane Ian has continued on and is expected to slam the South Carolina coast imminently.
A handful of Catholic parishes in the Fort Myers area have announced online that they have reopened. St. Cecilia parish in Fort Myers has power and Wi-Fi, but no water, according to a Thursday Facebook post. As of Thursday, there will be regularly scheduled Masses at St. Cecilia Catholic Community, the post says.
St. John XXIII Catholic Church in Fort Myers said in a Facebook post that its high school youth group will be gathering at the parish for Mass at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and then going out into the community to try to help people in need.
“If you have power at your house… offer to launder someone’s salt water-drenched clothes and linens before the mold sets in. If you are strong… offer to pull out drenched carpet and baseboards in someone’s house. If you are in an area where there is no flooding… go bag up debris and save homes from future floods to clear the drains. Kids, let’s get to work and help our neighbor… it is exactly what Jesus would do,” the Sept. 30 post from the church reads.
All Saints Byzantine Church in southwest Florida set up a separate webpage where the parish has been monitoring conditions and updating parishioners. As of the most recent update on Sept. 30, all services at the church had been canceled and the parish priest, Father Steven Galuschik, had evacuated. The church has asked for parishioners to contact the parish office with their safety status and to request any needs in the aftermath of the storm.
All Saints was not immediately available for a comment.
Ave Maria University, which is located south of where the direct path of the storm hit, issued an update on Thursday evening saying that power and air conditioning had fully been restored to the university and town.
Ave Maria is not in the floodplain zone but received small amounts of damage and power outages that were quickly resolved by generators. The university said that classes would resume today, Friday, Sept. 30, with an online option. Classes will resume fully in-person by Monday and campus Masses have fully resumed.
Ave Maria is engaging in various volunteer efforts to support relief for storm victims, including hosting families of first responders in the area because the school is considered a “shelter-in-place” location.
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